How can Iowa State pull off the upset Saturday? Five keys:
1. Avoid the big play defensively. Baylor scored five times last weekend against Kansas State, three being very long passing plays. Iowa State will attempt to keep everything in front of its zone defense, but that's much easier said than done, as Baylor's receivers get upfield and create separation better than any group in the country. The Bears are going to get their points, but the Cyclones need to make them work for it and convert third downs while marching down the field.
2. Red zone defense. Iowa State opponents are scoring touchdowns 64.7 percent of the time they enter the red zone in 2013. The mark last season was 56.8. What's ailing the Cyclones in this regard? There have been dropped interceptions, poorly-played balls, missed assignments. As the field shrinks the closer an opponent gets to the goal line, theory suggests it's easier to play defense (less ground to cover, etc.), but that's not the case this season.
Baylor is scoring touchdowns on 76 percent of its red zone trips. Iowa State, should it limit the big strike, needs to clamp down inside the 20s.
3. The time of possession and number of plays battle. Kansas State last week ran 80 plays to Baylor's 58 and held the ball nearly 20 minutes longer. The Wildcats didn't win but they held a lead in the fourth quarter and played as well as Bill Snyder could have hoped. Iowa State can't go three-and-out as often as it did last week against Texas Tech (six). The Cyclones are best when they get the tempo humming, but could that work against them this week?
4. Win the special teams. Considering it took 19 years for Iowa State to return a true kickoff return for a touchdown, another is unlikely Saturday with 50 percent of Baylor's kickoffs resulting in a touchback. Never know, though. Jarvis West is playing with more confidence than he ever has. Even if he doesn't take a kick to the house, he could help his offense out with a short field. Same thing with punt returns.
Head coach Paul Rhoads elected to fake an easy field goal last week, saying only touchdowns were going to win a game against Texas Tech. He'll have the same mentality this week, but it's important for the Cyclones to keep putting points on the board. If it's a manageable field goal, take the three.
5. Stop the run. Baylor didn't run it well in its 2012 loss to Iowa State and didn't run it particularly well last week, either. Should the Cyclones corral Seastrunk and Glasco Martin early with a four-man front and a linebacker or two, it'd take away the potency of Baylor's play-action fakes, which you'll see frequently.
|Matchup Preview | October 19, 2013|
|Iowa State Cyclones|
(1-4, 1-1 Away)
|#12 Baylor Bears|
(5-0, 4-0 Home)